Designers on representation in branding and packaging: “Inclusivity is not a quick fix”

Always has removed the Venus symbol from its sanitary products in a bid to be more inclusive to transgender customers. While this has been welcomed by the trans community and others, it has angered some who see it as ‘female erasure’. How should brands responsibly reconsider their identity to represent marginalised groups while still appealing to a broad customer base?


“For me, this illustrates the importance of brand consistency. Inclusivity is not a quick fix; it requires consistency and continuous alignment of packaging design, product and marketing. Brands that dare to take a stand and bring bold stories to life will have a better chance of building strong relationships with a diverse group of costumers, and as a result, lead the way to sustainable growth. The market is changing, and so are the needs of our customers. In my opinion, adaptability, courage, and consistency are needed to be a responsible brand today.”

Lydia Kellam, digital strategist at Kellam Communication


“Sanitary products are used by cis-gender women, trans men, and non-binary people. That’s not news. The Always packaging redesign in March 2019 made zero headlines. When it was explained that not all their consumers are cis-women Always changed the design again. None of this is news. It’s not a campaign strategy. It’s not erasure. It’s sad to see how social narratives have polarised the discussion.

That even seeps into the framing of this question: it’s not a ‘trans community’ victory, it’s a low-impact remedy by Always, a minor act of inclusion. The important lesson is obviously for brands to listen and understand ‘all’ their consumers, from the woke to the much-less-woke. As to how brands can responsibly represent ‘marginalised groups’? Well that has always been our job. On our best days it’s one of the things we can be proud of.”

Tea Uglow, creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney


“Criticising the removal of the Venus symbol from a pad wrapper is frivolous and superficial. Those worried about female erasure should focus on deeper issues of misogyny and violence instead of focusing on the packaging of a powerful multinational who – ultimately – doesn’t care about our bodies. The real issue here is to question what’s inside Always tampons and pads.

I have worked in the feminine care industry and know that these types of products are full of dioxins, synthetic fibres and petrochemical additives that are in direct contact with the most absorbing part of our bodies. So if we’re going to get pissed off about something, let’s get pissed off about the actual pads.”

Alessandra Lariu, co-founder of global creative community, SheSays


“By removing gender symbols in its packaging, Always made an inclusive choice to correct an oppressive design. Traditionally, Mars and Venus gender symbols have only represented cisgender groups and, in an age where we’re calling for equality towards marginalised groups, we need more brands like Always to help stop marketing and categorising hygiene products by gender.

The gender landscape is bigger, broader, and louder. As part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I think brands need to stop hiding behind traditional gender norms and demonstrate a sense of morality and hindsight to show inclusion to all communities, or risk losing brand appeal.”

Ryan Spence, art director at ilk agency

“Proctor and Gamble: ‘Always is removing the female symbol from the packaging of its menstrual products after trans and non-binary advocates pointed out they can also experience menstruation.

‘We routinely assess our products, packaging and designs to ensure we’re meeting the needs of everyone who uses our products.’

Abraham Lincoln: ‘You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’

When your customers have opposing opinions and you want to maintain your sales, it’s wise to have two different packs to allow people to choose the one they don’t find offensive. Some people prefer strawberry to vanilla, that’s why you can choose the one you prefer from the variety on offer.”

Michael Wolff, co-founder of Wolff Olins


“The world is changing. Rapidly. And audiences are becoming more complex to define — but that’s what we do, right? Take a problem, and solve it. Elegantly.

All brands have a responsibility to think about the needs of all of their customers. It can be easy for any group of people to look around the room and feel like they’re a representative group — but the reality for most agencies, given our current struggles around diversity as an industry, is that they’re deeply unrepresentative of both our target audiences, and society as a whole.

Brand decision makers need to recognise that they’ll carry unconscious biases (we all do!), and seek to fully understand the breadth of experiences for their consumers. Diverse teams help to reinforce this thinking by having more experiences in the room, and enabling the mindset of broader thinking. And ultimately, better solutions.”

Nat Maher, founder of Kerning the Gap

Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • steve October 31, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Sad to see the continued creep of identity politics

  • paul October 31, 2019 at 10:25 am

    It’s almost 2020 dude.

  • steve November 4, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Did you just assume my gender?

  • paul November 5, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    I call everyone dude, but your name does say ‘Steve’

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